BANGKOK: Scores of Thais on Saturday gathered in defiance of a junta ban on protests to call for a return to democracy, as public anger mounts over prolonged military repression, reports AFP.
The ruling junta has kept a tight lid on dissent since its 2014 coup by outlawing gatherings of more than five people and ramping up use of a draconian royal defamation law.
But impatience with the generals has been building in recent weeks and breaking through the surface in a series of creative and increasingly bold protests.
The agitation has been fuelled by a spate of graft scandals, including one that has ensnared the junta’s No. 2, plus the postponement of elections the regime had promised for November 2018.
On Saturday scores of people gathered on the pavement across from the “Democracy Monument” in Bangkok’s old quarter with banners that said “Stop hanging on to power, stop postponing elections.”
“We want to get our democracy back,” Sumittra Patprathun, a middle-aged Bangkokian in the crowd, told AFP as activists took turns railing against the military regime through a megaphone.
Hundreds of police were deployed to monitor the gathering.
Thirty-nine people who joined a similar rally in Bangkok last month were formally charged this week with violating the junta’s ban on gatherings and a public assembly law.Nine of those activists have also been hit with the heavier offence of sedition, which carries up to seven years in prison, for organising the rally.
On Friday police obtained arrest warrants for four of the leaders who failed to turn up to a summons this week.